Blaming Russia for ‘trucker’ convoy illustrates Tyee’s bias

The Russians were responsible for the “freedom convoy”, claims a purportedly progressive media outlet. The Tyee’s promotion of this conspiracy theory demonstrates the ideological grip of US imperialism.

Recently Andrew Nikiforuk argued that the trucker convoy in Ottawa was the by-product of Russian propaganda, specifically RT. This spinoff from some Democrats’ explanation for Donald Trump’s election victory ignores the Canadian foundation of the movement as well as its primary foreign influence.

In “Fascism is as Canadian as the Maple Leaf” Todd Gordon places the trucker convoy within a history that includes the Canadian Union of Fascists, Ku Klux Klan in Saskatchewan, Ontario’s Swastika Clubs, Social Credit in Alberta, etc.

In another notably Canadian background to the convoy, supporters aggressive flag waving was likely a reaction to the Trudeau government lowering flags at federal buildings after the discovery of unmarked graves at ‘residential schools’. Is it a coincidence that a movement aggressively waves the flag soon after the right accused the Liberals of canceling Canada Day and disrespecting the flag?

The trucker convoy was foreign influenced. But largely from south of the border. Donald Trump, Texas senator Ted Cruz, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and many other prominent Republicans publicly supported the “truckers”. Fox News, which has been available on Canadian cable since 2004, gave the protest wide coverage. So did Breitbart, Newsmax and a host of other right-wing US outlets that are influential within the Canadian right (prominent Canadian convoy backer Rebel News is an offshoot of Sun News, which was modelled after FOXNews). When GoFundMe stopped dispersing money to the convoy organizers US politicians intervened on their behalf and the protesters shifted their fundraising platform to US Christian site GiveSendGo.

Even Nikiforuk’s Russian conspiracy theory partly reflects US intervention into Canadian politics. In the article Nikiforuk repeatedly quotes Marcus Kolga, head of the MacDonald Laurier Institute’s DisinfoWatch.org. But DisinfoWatch is funded by the US government. The bottom of its initiating statement notes that “Development of the DisinfoWatch platform is funded by the United States Department of State’s Global Engagement Center and the US Embassy in Ottawa.”

Beyond Nikiforuk’s conspiratorial ramblings, The Tyee has solely echoed the dominant media’s caricatural criticism of Russia and its invasion. Yes, that invasion is a flagrant violation of international law and must be condemned. Over the past 10 days they’ve published “Putin’s Villainy Is Graphic”; “Meet the Face of Global Fascism: Ten things to know about Putin’s past, his designs on Ukraine and the dire road ahead”; ‘What’s Happening Is Crazy’: Wracked with worry about family back home, hundreds of Ukrainians rallied in downtown Vancouver to plead for peace”; “What the West Should Do about Putin”. At the same time, they’ve refused to give the readers context on Canada’s substantial contribution to today’s crisis, which includes helping to overthrow an elected Ukrainian government in 2014, supporting Washington’s dismantling of arms control measures and expanding NATO all around Russia.

Last month The Tyee published “Canada’s Military Aid Hypocrisy: No weapons for vulnerable Ukraine. Plenty for the villainous Saudi regime.” The article echoed Conservative leader Erin O’Toole’s call for Canada to give weapons to Ukrainian forces fighting an eight-year civil war precipitated by the 2014 US and Canadian backed coup.

I wrote a detailed response, which they refused to publish. Publisher David Beers wrote, “we have a story from a different writer in the works that makes some of your same points.” To the best of my knowledge that article has yet to appear on their site.

Beyond Russia, The Tyee’s coverage of Canadian foreign policy broadly aligns with the dominant imperial worldview. In the lead-up to NATO’s 2011 bombing they published “Libya Resolution a Huge Human Rights Milestone: Three reasons why the UN, with Canadian support, yesterday made history on behalf of humanity.” Libya has yet to recover from NATO’s bombing campaign. The Tyee’s coverage of China has often also been dreadful. In 2018 they published China hawk Charles Burton’s piece titled “Xi Jinping’s Power Grab and China’s World Domination Plan: Canada needs to face reality of global ambitions of new Chinese ‘emperor’” while in 2020 Nikiforuk wrote, “How China’s Fails, Lies and Secrecy Ignited a Pandemic Explosion: The regime now is in full propaganda mode, aided by the World Health Organization.”

The Tyee occasionally allows criticism of Canadian militarism and international mining abuses (between 2009-2016 Murray Dobbin often wrote critically of Canadian foreign policy in his columns). But they’ve largely ignored Canada’s role in Palestinian dispossession, support for the 2019 coup in Bolivia, multi-year bid to overthrow Venezuela’s government, etc.

A publication claiming the progressive mantle should assist its readers in going beyond the dominant media’s international coverage. More than ever, internationalism is essential. The climate crisis requires global solutions.

The first step is international co-operation. People in every country must care about each other. The most practical demonstration of that is holding our governments, corporations and other institutions responsible for their policies globally. To do that, we require information about what our government and corporations are doing. We need media critical of Canadian foreign policy rather than simply parroting government propaganda.

Blaming Russia for the “trucker convoy” achieves the opposite. Disinterest and refusing to publish stories that point out hypocritical Canadian interference in other countries’ internal affairs accomplishes the opposite.

 

On March 4 I will be participating in a panel on “Cutting through the Spin: Russia’s invasion, NATO’s provocation and Canada’s complicity”.

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